This weeks GotW features a very special little lady with a very interesting back story. Not only is this cutey seemingly always smiling, but she is just an all around, easy going, happy go lucky goat. Let me introduce you all to Everlily Maples Tootsie Roll, otherwise known around here as "Toots". This beautiful gold and white doe has the palest blue eyes, and same loving temperament that many have come to know as being out of our dearest Carmela - Toots' Grandmother. For Toot's story we need to back up a wee bit to get some history, for those who haven't been following the farm for as long. I am sure no one minds another great goat story anyways right? ;)
In 2014 after Geordon passed away, my son and I had to come to terms with the fact that we would need to sell some of our animals in order to make ends meet. As a family we had all worked hard to build our herd and we had many beloved animals that we were very attached to. Of course as it goes, the ones we were most attached to were the same ones that other people were interested in purchasing. Let me tell you how much THAT reality sucked, when it did sink in. Life throws us curve balls no matter how much we plan or prepare. My new reality at that time was that I would have to sell animals that I had intended to keep forever, just to pay the bills and survive another winter. For anyone who knows me, or has spent any time with me and my herd, you will know how strong my bond to them is. These are not animals to me, nor will they ever be. They are family. My new reality was having to sell my family? It is a bit hard for me to go back there, but it is very fulfilling to see how far we've come.
So how does Toots come into all this? As I was saying, we had to sell some goats. One of the ones that we decided to let go of was Sky River Meadows Neveah (Toots' mom and our miracle baby and Jr Res Champion). To say this was a hard choice is an understatement. We only knew that the best option was to find the best home possible for our dear Neveah, and so we did. Neveah joined a small family homestead called Everlily Maples. We were overjoyed that we were still able to see Neveah and visit with her at shows, and in two years we would hopefully receive a daughter back out of Neveah to add to our herd. In comes Tootsie Roll!!! Toots was born May 1, 2017. Although our plans and direction for the farm had changed greatly by the time, I was thrilled to be getting a another baby goat!! And she was so cute too!!! Courtesy of Everlily Maples - Here are Toots baby photos.
So, moving forward to 2020 and some very interesting observations I have made since Toots joined us. Being born and raised on another farm, to a different family, with their own methods, you would think there would have been some transitional issues adding her to our herd. Once again, as we have witnessed many times - there was no transition. There was the usual sniffing and vague threats of head-butting. It seemed that the entire herd knew who she was and where she came from. To make things even odder, that first night with the herd she was found sleeping next to Carmela (her grandmother) and Soleil (her older sister), as well as other extended family members. After many years of this it still amazes me every time I see evidence of bonds that we clearly can't see. How do they know who their family is automatically? They are not all white and gold, so this isn't a colour issue either. It is an incredible observation though and one I would love to find the answers to one day. If anyone wants to share theories or thoughts on this, hit me up! :)
Since we have arrived at our new location, the herd has really settled into a solid routine. Last year we bred Toots for the first time and she gave birth to a single kid, that we have retained as a wether and named Tommen. Both Toots and Tommen work within the therapeutic herd and Tommen has even ventured indoors with our Goats on the Go! program. If you think about my breeding program and the genetics that I specifically chose to create this herd, Toots is a great example of how solid this genetic temperament is. It can leave the herd and be mixed with other lines, and come back to us, fitting right in as if they were born here. No matter what causes this magic to work, I am just so grateful each and every day for them all. Being surrounded by so much unconditional love each and every day sure does have a way of filling your soul! As we venture out into the world offering our animal programs and introducing the herd into more places, it is comforting to know that I am always surrounded by my family and friends - two legged and four - the best support a girl could have and ever ask for <3
I cannot even begin to express how excited I am to write about this weeks GotW! This little man has the biggest heart in the tiniest body. Our wee Bilbo, as he is affectionately known, is one of our "dwarf dwarf" goats. Now that he is full grown, he stands at a whopping 10.5 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs all of 18 pounds. Don't let the diminutive size of this handsome wee man fool you. His heart is bigger than you can imagine! He is ALWAYS smiling. He is ALWAYS willing to cuddle or be groomed. He has quite a way with the ladies of both human and goat species, and he is always playful and full of joy. Bilbo is also a very important member of our Goats on the Go! program, where during the winter months we visit those who are in need of some special cheer and love. This program and the special goats and volunteers who work in it, are a very important part of how we reach those who are not able to come to us at the farm. This is especially true for those who are faced with mobility issues and challenges.
Bilbo was born at the end of our kidding season in 2017. His mother, Soleil (also affectionately known as Mamacita) had blessed us with our very first set of quadruplets. Bilbo and his three sisters came into the world with some difficulty. It turns out that Soleil had conceived two sets of twins and they had all become entangled inside. As tiny as Soleil was, I had to go "in" to untangle the kids and deliver them safely. Bilbo came out first and was feisty from his first breath. He was also the smallest of the four babies by a very noticeable margin. This made naming him VERY easy considering that my naming theme for 2017 was Lord of the Rings, he needed a Hobbit name for sure. Bilbo it was! Initially I thought that Bilbo was the only dwarf dwarf of the four kids. It wasn't until a few months had passed that we realized all four of them were extra small. Of course by this time, one of Bilbo's sister's (Sky River Meadows Rosie Cotton) had left us to join another wonderful herd (http://www.happyhensheritagefarm.ca/), leaving us with the remaining kids that we have since always referred to as the "broken quads" since they are only three here at Sky river Meadows. I retained Bilbo and his remaining sisters to ensure that they would not be bred (due to health concerns as well as their own safety) I am so grateful to be building myself a life and career path that also allows me to do right by my animals, while still ensuring that I can afford to care for their needs. The work my herd does with people has nothing to do with whether or not they have the perfect conformation, or if they are the best example of their breed. If anything, it is that inability to reproduce that seems to make them perfect for this type of work. Thus far, Bilbo is the only one out of his immediate family that works in the Goats on the Go! program. That may one day change as we are quickly realizing that we do not have enough house broken goats in our herd and we are working to rectify that by beginning to train some others.
As today is Family Day here in Canada, I thought it would be nice to talk about an interesting observation that I have made from spending countless hours watching my herd interact as their own community. One fact always stands out over and over. They bond closely with their family units, and close friends become as family - just like in our own society. Bilbo's family is one of the best examples of these family bonds in my herd. I will speak of this more when I write about his mother later in the year. When I observe Bilbo, I can say with certainty that he is most closely attached to his twin sister Gilraen. They are never far from each other and most often found sleeping together. He is quite close with Galadriel as well and she is the perfect substitute for cuddles if Raen is busy. The quads have an older sister named Star Trek (born a singleton), and she watches over them all. The entire family sleeps together at night, as is shown in this photo. I have countless photos just like this of them all always sleeping together - or as in this one - sitting together, proud and smiling :) Seriously, how cute are they?
When it comes to Bilbo, I have to admit that there are so many stories to tell. I find it difficult to chose what to tell on this post. Funny, he had no input or advice to offer on the subject either.... When I think about Bilbo, the first thing that comes to my mind is his smile. Seriously - THAT SMILE THOUGH!!! This little tiny goat, with his huge heart and $1,000,000 SMILE, has stolen more hearts than even I am aware. In his 3.5 short years of life, I have witnessed Bilbo heal many hearts - including mine, multiple times. He has brought people together. He has helped a family learn to laugh together again. He helped spark and ignite love between two lost souls. He brought joy and inspiration to many entrepreneurs at business engagements and corporate events. Now be brings his charm, humour and good nature to those we visit in our Goats on the Go! program. How can anyone not smile when they see him coming towards you in his best dressed tie! Bilbo is just timid enough to make everyone want to comfort him, and because he is SO small, many think he is a baby goat. He is in fact smaller than all of the baby goats in our current travelling band, but he is indeed full grown. What a Superstar! For such a young little guy though, he sure does have an impressive resume already. Now that we are actively engaging with people almost daily, we are able to spread this amazing gift of animal love and connection to so many. The benefits are actively going both ways all the time. Each person we meet seems to be impacted in a positive way. For each heart, soul, and smile touched, I see the positive effects it also has on my herd, and most definitely has on my team. I am not excluded from that positive energy either. It fills me heart and soul. I have found my purpose and life path, and finally know that it is not wrong of me to spend so much time with animals. It is in fact essential to the work that I do, and an instinctual part of "WHO I AM". It feels good to honour myself, and to honour my four legged friends by helping to share the messages and gifts they each have to share. As spring draws closer, we also get close to the time when we can start walking with the herd again. Even Bilbo enjoys going off on many grand adventures! ;)
OH! One other thing that I absolutely MUST write about when it comes to Bilbo. He has the CUTEST BUTT EVER!!! When he walks, or skips happily along - seriously, cutest butt ever!! If you didn't catch the Instagram or Facebook post announcing this blog entry, be sure to go check out a quick 10 second video :)
For this weeks blog post, I decided to break temporarily from my usual GotW, (it will return next week, I promise) and instead make a personal one. It has been quite a long while since I have done so, and definitely feel that the timing is right for this week. February has always been a hard month for me in general. I am challenging myself today - more so than usual, as today I am struggling to put any words down. With all new goals we set ourselves, there will always be challenging days. As writing never comes easily to me I should expect days like these :) I have to remind myself that my commitment to write this blog was actually a commitment to myself. A reminder to myself that life happens every single day, and that each new day there will be new challenges, victories, choices and new opportunities to learn and grow.
Tomorrow will be the six year anniversary of Geordon's sudden passing. Six years since everything changed... Although so much has changed since then, we are all doing great. My grandson turns two this May, my son is getting closer to finishing his apprenticeship and I have officially opened my FEEL practice. Our family remains small but strong, and we grow in abundance and gratitude daily for the blessings that still remain. February 11th has been a tough date for me the last 5 years. However, I now feel like I have come full circle. Six years ago, when Geordon died, I had just started working for Community Living South Muskoka. That was a long term goal that I had worked towards and finally achieved for myself. When Geordon died, I stopped working for a time and that also meant leaving the CLSM job behind. Tomorrow, six years later, I am returning to CLSM but in a completely new capacity. This time I come visiting with goats! To be able to offer this service, in this way brings such joy to everyone involved. So how did this all happen? That's an interesting story and journey that I think I am finally able to start talking about.
Two years ago I started the Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning (FEEL) Certification program from Horse Spirit Connections in Tottenham, ON. In the understatement of the century I will say it was the best decision I ever made for myself to enroll in that program. It was at the very least life altering for me personally. What it will be in the end still remains to be seen as I am still studying this path. Since graduating from the FEEL training, I have also completed the Advanced FEEL Training and am waiting to take the next level that is still being written. In the meantime, I have enrolled and begun studying the Wisdom Circles of Horse Medicine Lodge to gain better understanding of the Shamanic components to the FEEL Approach. The most beautiful thing about this entire process, in my opinion, is that while studying and learning skills to enhance the ways I can help others, I have inadvertently learned to love and help myself. That might sound strange to some. The reality was though that before I started the FEEL program I didn't love myself. Before then I actually didn't even have a concept of what self love was. It was during my first week away studying the FEEL program that I had a profound encounter with a horse name Juliette on Day 1 of my training. During an activity where we are challenged to connect our hearts energy to that of the horses heart energy (called a Heart Connection), Juliette looked me dead in the eye and spoke right through to my heart. She wanted to know why I didn't love myself. What? Excuse me? I didn't love myself? She was right though. Yes, I am talking about having a conversation with a horse. Yes, I know how it sounds. No, it was not imagined. The FEEL Approach teaches us how to connect with all beings, human or animal, from a heart centered approach. From this connected space with another being, incredible communication can and does happen. Juliette was 100% right. It took me a long time to be willing to admit it or even examine if the possibility was true, but this beautiful old mare was right - I didn't love myself. Juliette also did something else for me that day. She showed me how my life would look and feel if I chose to love myself instead by sharing a vision with me. Can you imagine? What a gift she gave me that day! I am almost two years into the process of learning to love myself and although I have not yet achieved the vision she showed me, I know the progress I have made. The FEEL program is amazing and is set up in 3 parts. First we are the client, experiencing all of the exercises first hand. Then we learn the science behind it, and participate in a practicum, and finally we learned how to facilitate the activities for others.
What started out as a learning journey has turned into a major spiritual awakening for me. I have participated in dozens of sweat lodge ceremonies as well as taken part in many other guided journeys and healings along the way, including a very profound Table Top Healing I experienced by a horse during my Advanced FEEL Training. That experience helped me to deal with a great deal of what was referred to as "ancestral pain" - that is something that has existed for multiple generations that is negative and not serving the individuals involved. I won't get into the details on this post, but WOW, what an experience! I came out of that exercise a new person, as with each and every sweat I take part in. Transformations are possible, if we only take the time to put in the required work. Find what works for you and do it! I think that is a responsibility we all have to ourselves. Love ourselves enough. Enough to do the work. Enough to make the necessary changes. Enough to ensure that we achieve happiness in our lives. Love ourselves enough!! One of my personal goals for 2020 was to love the S**t out of myself each and every single day. I am doing this by ensuring I take the time for all of my personal care every day, getting enough sleep, making time for yoga daily, etc What I have noticed already is that the more I pay attention to myself, the more productive I become in my own life! I feel better and I look better! Each day begins easier and my depressive symptoms seem less frequent. As each day is a new step, I feel stronger and more empowered all the time. I can now look at my accomplishments in life and see them as that - something I have accomplished! A long time ago I set out on a mission to one day own and run a Therapeutic Animal Farm. I wanted to create a place where people could come and connect with animals and not feel judged or shamed for the connections they felt. As animals have always been my personal healers, I knew there were others out there like me that not only needed that animal connection, but actually felt lessened when it wasn't available. Sky River Meadows has become the realization of those dreams of mine.
Now that we are officially open for business, I have the fun task of dreaming up new programs and activities to keep our guests and animals entertained. We have begun implementing a brand new program we now offer in the winter months we are calling "Goats on the Go". We are now visiting homes, schools, retirement homes, offices, and anywhere else that may need some goat cheer!
Happy Monday to everyone! It is February and the promise of an early spring is on the horizon. I took a few special moments to really notice the smell on the air this morning as I walked back in from the barn. I adore this pre-awakening time of year. When you know the forest and all of nature will begin to reawaken with new life and purpose. For all of those who suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), this is not a great time of year for you. On the milder days when the wind blows, take a moment to notice what carries on the breezes. Have hope, for this too shall pass and spring is right around the corner :)
This week for GotW, I have decided to share the story of Aphrodite. It is February after all and why not feature the Goddess of Love this month? Besides all that, "Dite" as she is known as mostly, has a pretty cool and interesting story. She is one of the few who have actually left my herd, lived in a few different places, with a few different people, and returned home to her roots again. Not many people move around that much in their loves, but Dite here has. The life journey this little goat has been on has given her a very unique wisdom and insight. I am pleased to share her story with you all.
Sky River Meadows Aphrodite was born a triplet in the summer of 2014. Her sister and brother were amongst the last babies born that season and as such they always got the most attention. These three were all so very different from each other in every way. Dite was very quiet, more aloof and shyer than her siblings. She was always very cuddly and affectionate though and was often found curled up in someone's lap. In 2014 we had the largest kidding season ever. It was the year my late husband Geordon passed away, and even though he was gone, we still had a LOT of bred does to give birth - 14 to be exact! 2014 saw 32 babies born to Sky River Meadows. It was an insane time on the farm that required the hands of a lot of volunteers. After Geordon's death, I really had to rethink the farm's plan and direction. I also had to think about how much I could manage on my own and I suddenly had a lot more goats than I was prepared for. That meant the sad reality of having to sell many goats that we otherwise perhaps would have kept. The entire process of downsizing the herd in 2014 was fairly traumatic for me. Saying good bye to many beloved goats that I had long term goals for was really hard. Saying good-bye to Aphrodite was really hard for both me and my son. As a farmer, I take finding new homes for my animals very seriously. I do my due diligence. I check people out. Even with the best background checks though, sometimes people can still manage to deceive you. I am not proud to say that the original home I found for Dite turned out to be far less than ideal. The poor girl lived in some rough conditions for a bit there. Very fortunately for Dite, she was not meant to stay there. I was contacted and informed that she was being sold. At that time I was still unable to add another mouth to feed at home, I was able however to find her a wonderful new second home.
In Dites second home, she held the very important position of "Pet Goat" to a lovely young lady. She was loved on, cared for, fed very well and had life all figured out for a bit there. As does tend to happen though, sometimes in life we have to make a choice or a change that affects other aspects of our lives. For this young lady and Dite, a choice had to be made that would result in their separation. As sad as this may sound, it is actually OK. This allowed me to bring our beloved Dite back home to her herd after all these years, AND her human visits her as often as she can. I'd say that's a pretty awesome outcome all around <3 Now we can all enjoy the love and gifts this special goat has to offer.
When I agreed to bring Dite back into the herd after such a long absence, I really didn't know what to expect from the herd. Would they welcome her back? Would they remember her? I really had no idea what to expect. She had a lot of family in the herd including her triplet sister, BUT, she had been gone for 4.5 years. What happened that first night when I brought her back in with the main herd was incredible actually. She and her sister walked right up to each other. They checked each other out just like any other long lost siblings would do after a long separation. The majority of the herd knew who she was and seemed to have no issue with allowing her back. There was very little to no fighting at all. When doing bed checks that first night I found Aphrodite sleeping beside her sister Soleil. My heart absolutely melted for them. If I hadn't witnessed it all with my own eyes I would have never believed it. In all honesty though, Dite has been back for a year now and the transition was as easy as if she never left. Even more incredible though. Dite didn't return alone, she actually came with a friend. A wether named Ozzy was her companion and needed to come with her. I'll spare a lot of the details for Oz's own story, but the herd accepted him immediately as well. A total stranger goat. Born and raised on a different farm, exposed to different things, raised a different way, you would think there would be transition issues. There wasn't. Perhaps Oz was accepted on Dite's word? I He was challenged by the other wethers but only mildly at best. The whole herd was chill with them both! Dite and Oz are definitely besties though. They are always together (and are often in the company of a third goat who recently joined us from the same farm...another story for another GotW post).
Dite definitely has a place in the working therapy herd here. She still enjoys meeting new people and often comes to share some quiet comforting space with people. She and her sister are both very good as sharing "grandmother energy" which could be partly why they are both so special to me. You know that safe, loving feeling you can only get from a Grandmother? Like a nice warm hug :) I am just so happy to have Dite back here on the farm. Just last night, I was personally blessed with some great advice from her that really helped me to find a solution to a common dilemma in my daily routine. She was seriously helpful. Thanks Dite! XOXO
For this weeks edition of GotW, I have chosen a really interesting and amusing character. He is a very distinct and unique looking goat in my herd and is not hard to spot. His name is Tuco and he is one of our wethers (fixed male). Tuco was born on a friends farm in 2016. Tuco is a bigger goat than most in my herd because he is only half Nigerian Dwarf Goat. His father is one of my breeding bucks (Sky River Meadows Cosmos), and his mother is a big alpine goat named Julia, owned by the Parliaments. Tuco joined my herd in 2018, and it was a happy day for me indeed! I had always had a soft spot for Tuco when I would visit the Parliaments, so I was thrilled to be able to offer him a place here. In my opinion, Tuco is a very special boy with a gift for connecting with people. I always felt that he would do well in my therapeutic herd, and he sure has not disappointed. Tuco also seems to have a sense of adventure that I really love about him. He is always willing to go for a walk - even without the herd, which I think is really cool and makes him super unique. Goats are herd animals and they do not like to be separated from their herd. Tuco is a goat that is so self aware and confident in himself though, that is seems he is perfectly content to just go with the flow each and every day. Oh Tuco, how I wish I could live more at ease like you.
Each and every goat in our herd here is a very unique and distinct character. Tuco is no exception to that. His striking coat colours are just as flashy as his personality. He is FABULOUS!! If there was a fashionista in my herd it is Tuco. His spots change from a soft brown to black as they progress down his back. He has striking yellow eyes, and he is ALWAYS smiling! Tuco loves to meet new people and because he is one of the biggest goats in the herd, he usually gets his way by pushing the smaller goats out of his way. If you want Goat Selfies - this is your boy! I have more selfies with Tuco than any other goat in my herd I swear. OK, so maybe he is a bit vain too. But with good looks like his, I don't blame him. Besides, who doesn't want a cool goat selfie? When you have a fun and willing friend to take hilarious pictures with, why wouldn't you? When it comes to having a sense of humour, he's got that covered too. Tuco can be a prankster and even recently once body checked me right into a ditch - on purpose. I did share that video to my personal Instagram account.
In a therapeutic setting, Tuco seems incredibly gifted at connecting with those who are perhaps struggling with self-image or self-concepts. Our society is really good at making many of us feel inadequate at times. From advertising to social media, we are all under immense pressure to fit into some sort of mold. For some it is these feelings that can really stop us from being truly authentic, and living our best lives. For me, spending time with Tuco is like spending time with myself. I can be free to just be who I am without the fear of being judged. Tuco isn't afraid to wave his flag and be himself and nor should we! Each one of us is unique and we should all be proud to be ourselves. I think that is what I love the most about spending time with the herd. There is never any judgement. When sharing space with the herd, everyone becomes unencumbered and free to be themselves. Can you imagine if the rest of the world worked in such simple and easy ways?
A frosty -26C greeting today! It seems mother nature decided that it WAS winter after all and gifted everyone with a good amount of snow this past weekend. We were blessed with a foot of snow here which took us all day to dig out from. You may all appreciate that the photos today are all of greener days, and hopefully they can bring you some warmth today. This week I decided to feature another one of my very special ladies. She is aptly named "My Precious" as she most certainly is a very precious gift. A heart of gold, and shining bright spirit of love, My Precious was born in 2017. For those of you who don't know, I am the only one who picks the names, and each year I choose a naming theme, as a way to help me narrow down the potential name choices for our babies. In 2017, the theme was Lord of the Rings. I like to say that my nerd comes out when I name my herd. I take naming each of our babies very seriously as I want to ensure that the name is a good fit to the personality. Sometimes it has taken me weeks to make a choice, and on occasion the name changes a time or two before it sticks and they become registered. With Precious, she was one of the hard ones to name. Nothing fit. I even researched names, scouring through Tolkien's works, looking for the ONE name that fit her personality. In the end, her name was chosen based on her heart. The ONE name, for the sweetest goat. MY PRECIOUS! She is just too sweet for words! From the moment of her birth, she has just always had a way of drawing people to her. She stares deep into your eyes, and I swear a warm loving feeling will overcome you. Spend some time in her presence and it will start to envelop you in a cocoon of love. It sounds weird, I know. There is something about these goats though that really does need to be experienced first hand. There are some things in this world that there just are no words for.
Each and every kidding season there is at least one baby born that captures my heart right away. In 2017 I actually had MANY born that ended up becoming an important part of what my herd is today. Precious has always been very special goat to me for several reasons, but the main fact is that she is the last daughter of our dear Delilah (Geordon's favourite goat, now retired), and she inherited her mother's sweet, loving nature. I think in any great breeding program, it is always the goal to try to improve on the next generation by breeding wisely. As the main focus of my breeding program is for temperament, I am VERY proud of how both Precious, and her twin brother Gimli turned out. I actually kept Gimli as well and he is one of my herdsires - also with the sweetest temperament. I could easily say that these two are pretty close to the perfect example of what we try to breed for here. Precious is calm, sweet natured, easy mannered, and this year she freshened (had babies) for the first time and was a fantastic and calm milker! It may seem odd to many to have a dairy goat breeding program focused on temperament, however in my line of work it makes perfect sense. How do you find the perfect animal partners to work with you to help people feel better? Well, if you can't buy them - I tried this for years, it was very expensive and there was no guarantee of temperament - then you attempt to breed them! By selectively breeding for the desired physical and emotional qualities, we actually better our chances of raising well balanced animals. The way we raise our animals here also makes a big difference. We begin conditioning them from the moment they are born. We work diligently to socialize each and every one of them. We nurture their unique personalities so that they can shine true and authentic for who they each are. We honour each animal here for their choice to take part in any work or activities we do here. It allows us to work with animals that have been raised from birth knowing no fear or distrust of humans. It allows us to raise them to have a voice, have a choice, and an opinion. This creates a very unique animal to make a connection with. Again - something that must be experienced to understand. Now don't get me wrong, I adore all goats. I think they are hysterical on all levels. In my line of work though, it takes a very special kind of goat to go into some of the places we do. I wouldn't ever even imagine taking some of my "non therapy" goats to work with me. That's a nope. ;)
So getting back to Precious, and that amazing heart she has. I think we all know someone who just LOVES everyone they meet. Do you know the kind of person I mean? The one who as they walk down the street they offer hugs and smiles to everyone they pass. Precious is that kind of goat. As she goes about her day, when she encounters people, she takes the time to ensure they are noticed. I will try to be clearer here. Precious is direct - but in a very gentle way. She makes eye contact, but in the most innocent and unassuming way, that it always feels comfortable. She approaches timid people slowly, and as soon as she is close enough, she will begin to lick them. The impact this has on most people is quite incredible to witness. You'll see a softening occur and within no time she has won over yet another heart. You see, each goat in my herd has a "gift" of sorts. Almost like a special ability. Precious exudes love - that is her gift. She is pure love. My opinion is that Precious has the ability to help people to feel what true unconditional love feels like. For some, that may be something that they are experiencing for the very first time. It is very powerful and can be so transformative for some individuals. For me, it is incredible to watch as Precious cracks the hardest of people. Those soft, sweet, blue eyes of hers just seem to melt away any hesitation or reservations someone may have had about hanging out with a goat for a bit.
This past summer, Precious gave birth to a beautiful set of twins. Both her son and daughter were strikingly beautiful, but they both also possessed her rock solid, sweet and loving temperament! To see the qualities I so strongly admired in Precious's own mother Delilah, pass on again to another generation fills me with so much pride for the breeding program that I have put together. Precious, like her mother before her, and her daughter after her, will continue to work with people in different and often extraordinary ways. Now that the Sky River herd is 8 generations into this work, it just continues to grow and evolve more and more.
In the coming weeks, we will be launching a brand new pilot program at Huntsville High School where we will be bringing the goats to the students to assist in anxiety and stress relief during exams. We are thrilled and excited to have the ability to bring our herd to some pretty exciting places. It allows us to reach many more people that may normally miss out due to mobility or health restrictions. Now that we will be cracking into some new territory in offering supports to those in need at schools, I am sure we will discover even more magic in how the human/animal connection can heal and rejuvenate us, and continue to have a lot of fun along the way.
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And just for you Gemma, with love, THE END : )
I am delighted and excited to write today's Goat of the Week post. This week will feature one of the youngest herd members, and one with a bit of a different story and upbringing. For anyone who has met her, they can all see how much she loves her "mommy", and it is also very apparent that she is loved and spoiled rotten by that "mommy". For anyone who works or volunteers here, she is very much thought of as a spoiled brat who listens to no one. Today's GotW is a goat that I candidly call my "daughter", my bottle baby Yara. She has big attitude, thinks no rules apply to her and instead makes up her own rules as she goes. Oh, and in case you didn't know before, Yara is the CENTER of the universe, and we are all here to serve her. You've all been informed...lol ;-) At only seven months of age, Yara is already beginning the training steps into becoming a full working member of our "house goat" gang that work with me during the winter months as part of my mobile therapeutic practice.
Yara was born as a quadruplet (set of 4 girls!) on June 8th, 2019 to Sky River Meadows B'elanna. At four days of age, B'elanna decided that 4 babies were too much for her to manage and she rejected Yara from her litter. As much as I tried to work with B'elanna, she would have nothing to do with Yara any longer. It was at this point that I made the decision to transition Yara to a bottle and move her into my home. If you think that this sounds like a fun idea - let me STRONGLY caution you! Having a goat living in your house is no joke. Goats are in fact incredibly intelligent and easy to house train. However, they have more energy than you can imagine - almost boundless. Pair that with their desire to climb, insatiable curiosity, and mischievous nature = potential recipe for disaster. Yara was only 4 days old when she first made it onto my kitchen table. Soon she could make it from there onto the counters.... you get the idea. Houses also have a lot of something goats love to eat: PAPER! All the tastiest kinds of paper! Newspaper, receipts, bills, lists, paper towels, etc., and Yara's personal favourite - toilet paper. She would bite holes in the roll so that you would roll out swiss cheese toilet paper, rendering it completely useless. Thanks Yara. Also, if you choose to have a goat live in your house, you had best be prepared to take it with you everywhere. Goats are herd animals and need to be with their herd - even if two legged. In order to raise Yara as balanced as possible, I had her spend 50% of her time during the day with the herd, and the other 50% (which included overnight) indoors with me. This was for her own safety, as without a mom to protect her in the herd she was vulnerable to bullying from herd mates and could become injured, or even killed. Yara often had to go to town with me if her feeding times coincided with something I had to do. As I am ALWAYS busy, Yara went with me pretty much everywhere for the first 4 weeks of her life. Raising a bottle baby goat is just like raising any other baby. Seriously - everything will be in their mouths! Goats explore the world with their mouths, and this is why popular belief is that goats eat everything. That is actually incorrect though. Goats do eat a great deal, and often things they shouldn't, BUT the majority of the time they are only trying to discover what something is and if it is edible.
Baby goats also do not like to sleep alone. Apparently my stuffed goat Hank that I gave Yara to sleep with was no substitute for me. It literally only took Yara two weeks to work her way into sleeping with me in my bed. Let's just say she has a way of manipulating me into giving her anything she wants lol. But, Oh my goodness! The sounds of her little snores! My heart, seriously melted each and every time she would nuzzle up to my ear to fall asleep. How could I refuse her? I was helpless against her. Those soft, warm, brown eyes. I am not ashamed to admit that Yara did sleep with me - in my bed - until she was 10 weeks old. Likely not a healthy practice, and not one I recommend either. I am happy to say that although a difficult separation for us both, Yara now lives full time in the barn with the herd and has consistently since she was 12 weeks old. She does still come indoors though. That is actually essential as she is in training to replace her great grandmother Maisie in a few years. Yara actually comes from an interesting line of house goats. Starting with Maisie, down to Yara's mother (Maisie's grand-daughter) was also a house goat with an interesting back story that I will save for her own GotW post in future weeks. So Yara is the third in her line to have been raised indoors and be housebroken, which is kind of cool in my opinion. The goats I have that work indoors are usually good indoors for an hour before needing a potty break. Accidents do happen, but they are rare and actually are surprisingly easy to clean up and deal with. Small risk for the amazing gain people get having the goats come visit them in their homes or elsewhere. Yara has been doing very well and in recent weeks has been going along with me to my visits to Community Living in Parry Sound. She seems to love the work we do as much as I do. Yara's future in therapeutic work looks very promising making her extra special.
Sky River Meadows is just finally opening it's doors to the public in a big way this year. We will be launching new and exciting animal programs and so much more. Yara will have a very special role through all of that. As she matures and grows her personality will continue to change for a while yet. Until a goat reaches full maturity, they change their mind a lot. Yara some days is rather obstinate to anyone but myself. I call it her "you're not my mommy" mood. She is terrible when she in this mode and makes it challenging for my team to get chores or other routine work done. She is often out of the pen and just roaming around. Why? Well because she wants to, so I let her lol. I know, it doesn't help, but I seriously can't help myself. I love this little goat so very much! She has a nickname that is pretty pathetic actually. It started out as just my "Fuzzybum". It has evolved into "Fuzzybumbumbum" Don't ask me why. Some things just can't be explained and that is also true for people who spend ALL of their time with goats. Some of my goats have some pretty funny nicknames. One thing is for certain. Yara has it GOOD. She gets everything she could ever want. She also gets regular pampering - including scratching between her toes and under her dewclaws daily - all of them! She also expects daily armpit and face scratches to go with them. *sigh* Can I come back as one of my goats in my next life? Better yet, I want to come back as Yara. She is the center of the Universe after all ;-) Yara is one of the best gifts 2019 blessed me with. I can't wait to see how far her and I can grow my dream into reality, this year and every year.
With a new year and a new decade upon us, I am filled with excitement for the endless possibilities that lay in front of us all. 2020 is sure to be a big year for us here as we launch our full programming and move full steam ahead. For that reason I have chosen one of my oldest goats for this weeks GotW post. She was the first Nigerian Dwarf Goat born at my farm, so she has been with us on this journey almost from the very beginning. Cassi has the distinction of being the very first registered Sky River Meadows baby. She is a daughter of our herd Queen Bonnie, and our herd King Gigalo. A "Princess Royal" in everything she does, including attitude. Do not let that beautiful baby face of hers fool you. Cassi is as fierce as they come in my herd. She has a mean streak and is easily the toughest fighter amongst my does. Those piercing blue eyes of hers stare straight into your soul. When Cassi works with people, she has a tendency to cut straight to the heart of the matter to draw attention to whatever issues need working with. Her direct nature, no BS attitude and stunning beauty all make Cassi a force to be reckoned with here at the farm. She also is seemingly fearless and delights in taking on any dogs that wander too close and are fool enough to turn their back. I once witnessed all 75 pounds of her hit a 120 pound dog so hard, the poor dog was sent somersaulting. Cassi is a force indeed!
Cassi was born in the Spring of 2012. At the time our herd was still quite small (about 10) and we were still uncertain of the direction the farm was headed. Cassi was one of twins that were the first Nigerian babies born under the farm name. She and her brother Orion were both quite flashy, with stunning blue eyes. Being born to our herd Queen Bonnie, I had my hands full trying to socialize these two babies. Bonnie would hide them from me or play keep away by not letting me catch them. In the end though, time and patience always win out. Cassi is very particular about how she gets touched and where. When being brushed, Cassi actually prefers it if you just firmly hold the brush tightly and she will brush herself. It would seem that us poor lowly humans just can't do it the right way to suit her. She does tend to be quite rough with herself though so I prefer she do it her own way as well. She does appreciate being clean and looking her best. She is also one of a few goats who I can say "ask" to have their hooves trimmed. When Cassi sees me making the rounds doing hooves, she always seems to "get in line" to be one of the first ones done. I guess there is something to be said for a good pedicure. She does seem to appreciate a good hoof trim though.
I often think that the trimming of their hooves must feel weird to goats, but perhaps it is also solidifying their connection to the earth. As my goats work for a living to earn their keep, ensuring they remain in good health is essential. We all need a good solid foundation on which to work with. Goats are no different. When we have a solid foundation and are grounded in our day to day lives, we feel better and perform better. For those who are unfamiliar, goats are cloven hooved, meaning they have two toes on each hoof. The hooves of goats in captivity need to be trimmed regularly in order to keep them balanced on a good foundation. For prey animals (animals that are food for other animals in the wild) having a good foundation with the earth is essential to survival. Prey animals ability to "flight or fight" at a moments notice is literally the difference between staying alive or not. Their very ability to read the energies around them in order to survive depend on it. For prey animals, the alternative to being ungrounded is to become food for another animal. That's a hefty price to pay for sure. What powerful teachers prey animals become when you observe the lessons they share. We can learn a lot about being grounded and living in the moment just by sharing space and spending time with them. For Cassi I certainly feel that is the case. I often think of her as one of my most "grounded" goats. Funny thing about Cassi though - she isn't that friendly. She has no interest in being a therapy goat most of the time and really only comes forward for people who have a deep need to get a direct message - usually about being grounded and present in their bodies. Cassi is blunt and to the point, very much the way a horse is in Equine Facilitated Learning. She seems to have no patience for BS, and wants people to be feeling their best authentic selves immediately. She gets her message across very directly as well. She will rub her head, butt, paw and sometimes even nip to get her point across. She is so direct in fact that I have needed to step in to intervene so that she didn't get out of hand in communicating. She is not afraid to step up her game to be sure her message is heard, and I am always there to try to interpret the best I can. She always moves on quickly after sharing with someone. She is a very important goat after all, and has other important things to be doing ;)
Now that Cassi has reached maturity, she doesn't have much to worry about. Retirement suits her. She is also dealing with a health issue that requires most of her focus and energy to get well. Cassi has a few daughters in our numbers that will take her place amongst the breeding females, and Cassi can just focus on spreading her wisdom to our clients and getting well. When visitors come to the farm, most of them will get to meet Cassi. She seems to want to meet everyone that comes to visit. Most will just be met with her icy stare, but a few may be lucky enough to brush her. Many will be met with her vigorous head rubbing against their knees and even a few others may get a playful nip from her. Be warned if you wear rubber boots to the farm! Cassi for some reason really detests certain kinds of rubber boots. I have had to leash her to stop her from head butting people right out of their offensive boots! LOL! Like I said, that baby face of hers is super deceiving and allows her to get close enough to people just to prove she's not just a pretty face. Beautiful blue eyed wee devil she is. A spitfire, just like her mamma.
OK, so clearly this is not a goat. For the last GotW post of 2019, I thought it would be fun to share a story from another herd member here. Out of all of the "non-goat" animals here, horses not included, none have quite as big a personality as Amelia does. She certainly leaves an impression on people! She also isn't what most people expect, which I love so much about her.
Amelia as she is called, is a 2yr old Irish Dexter heifer. I bought Amelia from a friend in the early spring of 2018 when she was just a baby. It was my intention to bring her home when I moved to the new farm. With more space it would be much easier to introduce a cow to my goats - most of which had never seen a cow, with the exception of the show goats. Due to a few delays I did not get to bring Amelia home until she was close to a year old. I had my work cut out for me, making friends with this one! She came with very pointy horns and a VERY big personality! She was quite shy, and had not been handled much, so we had a long way to go to bring her to the social butterfly she can be known as now. She was young though and I've worked with much more challenging critters than this one, so was confident she would work out.
Amelia was raised with a herd of goats, so I knew that she was going to be fine living with my goats. The biggest challenge would be how to convince my goats to willingly live with a cow. In the end it really didn't take much. The older goats were much more reserved and took longer to warm up to her, but the babies were quick to discover how much fun she was to climb and jump on top of. I am sure by now you are wondering why on earth would I want to add a cow to my goat herd? Turns out, these feisty little cows are incredibly protective! Where we live we also have a healthy coyote and wolf population. It never hurts to have back up in your herd - especially when you can't have a livestock guard dog, which I can't. So we use alternative protection animals. It turns out that Amelia is FIERCELY protective of her herd and she takes it very personally each and every time I remove any animal from the farm for any reason.... which happens a lot lol. I swear that she is telepathic and knows the day before we have an off farm event. Amelia has a bellow that could raise the roof off the barn in alarm when she chooses to use it - and she does choose to use it - often! We discovered Amelia's ability to launch and project her voice over vast miles when she first moved here and we would take the goats out for a hike. She would bellow and buck, ripping all around the pasture until we returned her goats. She would work herself into quite a tizzy actually that it became apparent that I was going to have to start bringing her with us, just so she'd calm down. That was great fun for a few weeks. Amelia was happy and having fun ripping around the fields, and was content to just follow along with us all. After a couple of weeks though, Amelia began to have ideas of her own. All of a sudden one day while on a walk with the herd, Amelia decided to go off on her own adventure... It happened a few times more... We trained her to walk on a lead after that. Chasing a belligerent bovine all over the Muskoka bush is not as much fun as it sounds. Oh the adventures Amelia has had!
On occasion, as does happen, gates may not be as secured as they appear, or Amelia has an incredible ability to open gates. She does get out somehow though, and when she does, she wants to ensure everyone knows it! We live on a very large property with the herd separated to a few places at different times of the year. She will run around to ALL members of the herd letting them know she's on an adventure. She also visits my front door and the barn monitors so that I will be sure to know she is out and about. She then likes to run down to the neighbours farm, to taunt and bellow at the cows that live there. It is quite the sight to see a miniature cow that is easily 1/3 the normal cow size, frolicking around owning her world. Such sass! I stopped chasing Amelia down after the third escape. I know she isn't going anywhere and she is safe. She might love an adventure, but believe me - only short ones. Amelia also loves food, water, napping, brushing, pampering, shade, etc, just as all pampered animals do. She also loves NOT running. So even though she gets out, I don't worry. Once she is done being naughty she is easy to catch and put where she belongs without much fuss.
Along with her huge personality came a set of very pointy horns that I knew we would have to deal with as well. With handling and "taming" of the wild beast that Amelia can be, I suffered many bruises and pokes from those horns and was well aware of how dangerous they could be. Even with the helpful use of pool noodles, there was no dulling the point of those horns when Amelia chose to use them against you. In order to protect all of us, our team, and our clients, for safety reasons the decision was made to have Amelia's horns surgically removed, which we did in March of 2019. The surgery went very well and she has fully recovered from the ordeal. Although she has a much different look about her now, and she still occasionally uses her phantom horns against me, we are all much safer for it.
Amelia literally now spends her days eating and sleeping, waiting for visitors to come admire her or maybe even to brush her. In the warmer months, she is out at pasture with her little sister Elsa who joined us in November 2018. She is no longer living with the goat herd, but spending her time looking after the mini donkeys we also have, and waiting for a time when we will have more of a job for her to do. During the winter months, Amelia is up at the big goat barn and makes up the loudest part of our welcoming committee there. Not a bad life for a cow on a therapeutic farm, even if it is only me who says so. :)
On today's edition of Goat of the Week, I introduce everyone to Han Solo. I chose Han for a couple of reasons - the nerd side of me is going crazy as I haven't yet had a chance to see the new Star Wars movie.... The main reason I chose Han though, is due to Christmas being just a couple of days away. Not everyone loves the holiday season. For some people it is the hardest time of the year and each day is a struggle. Everyone will have their own reasons for these difficulties or struggles through the holidays. I myself struggle in many different ways this time of year, and I know so many other that do too. Now what does a goat have to do with all that? Well Han is different in a special kind of way, which is why I have chosen him for this "Christmas Edition" of GOTW. I thought he would be the perfect goat to open a discussion about the ways we can all struggle to cope in a world where we don't always feel we belong. The holidays tend to magnify those feelings and make one feel even more alone. For that reason I feel this is the perfect time to introduce Han to everyone. In a herd as large as ours, everyone has their "role". For Han, that role is to be our resident a**hole. I know that sounds harsh, but I assure you it isn't. Here is where I am going with that...
Han was born in 2015, in the year that my naming theme was Star Wars. It was apparent to me very early on that Han was a highly sensitive individual. He was very skittish, and would tense up the moment anyone tried to touch him. At the time it was early on in my studies and I wasn't as aware then as I am now as to the struggles of highly sensitive individuals - I am also now very aware that I too am one of these highly sensitive types. We can sense and feel the emotional energies of others, and sometimes those emotions can cause confusion and overwhelm us, especially if we are unaware that the emotions we may be feeling, may not in fact be our own, but that we are picking up the emotions of others. Han being so sensitive like this, made him virtually impossible to "tame". He is not like any of our other goats that are friendly and curious. He is not. If you approach Han he will run away and knock you down if he needs to in order to get out of your way. He is incredibly tricky for me to catch for his regular maintenance and care, but over the years I have learned the best way to "deal" with Han. Like our Queen Bonnie, Han is only handled by me. The trust we have developed in our relationship is based in mutual respect. Han knows that I will do what needs to be done and let him go back to his life of quiet contemplation without any extra fuss. You could say we have an understanding with each other. I think he knows I am a similar creature.
The sad reality for a goat that is not easy to manage is often to end up on someone's plate. Fortunately for Han, he was born on a farm where a herd was being created that would need someone like him in it. I am grateful that I am able to offer a place for those who would normally suffer a much different fate. My herd is as large as it is in a way to attempt to make a representation of what our own society or community is like. For Han, he is often judged unfairly for being the way he is. I have heard visitors that come here refer to him as the "grouch", the "mean one", the "angry one" etc. None of those labels are fair or any indication of who he really is. Nor is me referring to him as the "Resident A**hole", but that literally is his role. He is here to represent those "types" of people in our society. Han is not grouchy, mean or angry all the time. He does not like to be touched, many people are the same way. There was an interesting point in time last summer that came about a month after we moved to Woodfield. One day while out on a herd walk we stopped to lay in the grass and let the herd graze. All of a sudden, Han was at my side. He just stayed there right beside me, not moving. As a slowly reached out to touch him, he let me. Even more shocking, he let me rub him all over! I even got to take a selfie with him. (thank heavens otherwise no one would believe me). For about a month after that day though, Han continued to interact with people and let them touch him. I thought perhaps he had determined to like people afterall, but nope! After those few weeks, it was as if he decided I tried it and didn't like it, and he went back to being the Han we've always known. Hey, at least he gave it a shot! ;)
So back to my reason for choosing him for this weeks post. I think that as a society we are so quick to judge others. We forget that we should always remember to be kind and compassionate first, because we have no way of knowing what someone else is going through. At this time of the year especially while so many struggle. I think it is even more important to remember to always reach out in kindness to others. Gentleness goes a long way. No one is perfect. We are all human. We all make mistakes. We all have things hiding in our closets. We all have regrets. We all lose things we love. We all grieve. We all feel too much sometimes. When Christmas rolls around, please take the time to think of those in your life that may be struggling right now and reach out if you can. We all need love. Love in all forms.
Merry Christmas to everyone from all of us at Sky River Meaodws. We wish you all an abundance of health, love, light and happiness in 2020.